JOHANNESBURG -- Merrick Bremner birdied six of his first nine holes on the way to tying the course record with a 64 on Thursday in the opening round of the South African Open.
Bremner raced to 8 under and a two-shot lead over Henrik Stenson and Matthew Carvell at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate on the outskirts of Johannesburg.
Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel recovered from a double-bogey five on his third, No. 12, to card a 4-under 68 for a share of seventh.
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Ryder Cup winner and former world No. 1 Martin Kaymer was 2 under after his 70. Branden Grace, a four-time winner on the European Tour this season and sixth in the Race To Dubai money list, was at even par.
The 26-year-old Bremner consolidated his outstanding start -- when he went out in 30 and birdied three of his first four -- with two more birdies coming home. He had no bogeys to raise early hopes of a maiden European Tour title.
"I played fantastically on the first nine," the South African said. "I didn't miss a green and there was only one chance that I missed that was makeable, and that was on 15. But in theory I could have shot 28 on the first nine."
But Bremner also was mindful that he was one off the lead at the halfway mark at Serengeti last year only to fall away over the weekend.
"I started thinking a bit more and playing clever golf, as opposed to using too much aggression, which is what I normally do," he said.
Chasing his first victory in three years, Stenson had five birdies and an eagle on the par-4, 375-yard No. 17 after a monster drive to the edge of the green. He holed from the fringe to move to 6 under and into a two-way tie with debutant Carvell, two behind Bremner.
They are one ahead of Craig Lee and Alex Haindl, who were at 5-under 67.
After his struggles on No. 12, Schwartzel did find a hint of the form that landed him the 2011 title at Augusta National. He had a delightful chip on No. 2 to set up one of his six birdies and didn't drop any more shots after the early slip. Schwartzel shares sixth with seven other players, four shots off the lead.
"I hit the ball well and was in some good spots on the course," he said.
Schwartzel's brother Atti, who also is playing this year, opened with an even-par 72.
Kaymer double-bogeyed his first hole on his South African Open debut -- calling it a "bit of a shocker" -- but picked himself up with four birdies and no more drops to tie for 27th at 2 under.
Grace, enjoying a breakthrough season since winning back his tour card for 2012, could only find three birdies and had a bogey and double on his back nine for a 72. Defending champion Hennie Otto was at 1-under 71 and amateur Terence Boardman made a hole-in-one on the par-3 12th in a 2-over 74.